De Griekse oenologe, wijnmaakster, culinair journaliste Nikoleta Makrionitou vroeg me om voor het Griekse wijnmagazine Oinohoos een artikel te schrijven. We hadden elkaar leren kennen bij Syros Winery, dat zij en haar man nieuw leven inblazen. En ze zag wel wat in mijn reisverhaal, mijn missie, terwijl ze zich vrolijk maakte om mijn belachelijke huurfiets.
Dit is mijn artikel.
First of all, some figures: during harvest time between August and September 2014, some 32 wineries were visited (14 at the Kyklades, 18 in Central Greece). To all requests for professional visits (through email and phone in English), 13 on the Kyklades responded positively and timely, 1 didn’t. In Central Greece, 12 replied timely in English, 6 didn’t reply but did welcome us after a telephone call in Greek, 1 wasn’t interested in our visit and didn’t reply properly.
As for the grapes; on the Kyklades less than 20% of the wineries used “international varieties” to support the indigenous grapes in blended wines. In Central Greece, 10% used mainly or uniquely indigenous varieties.
From the above, some personal conclusions: Kykladic wines display confidence about their indigenous varieties: steadily, they have become well known in quality restaurants worldwide and they are much sought after. Only a couple of the smallest Kykladic wineries don’t export to Belgium, for example.
In Central Greece, the search for “internationally excepted taste” is bigger. Also here, wide export possibilities have been explored. It’s clear they want to open up to the world but their communication skills stay somewhat behind. Maybe, looking for notoriety abroad, these wineries want to please the customer, instead of going ahead and forcing the “western spoiled wine amateur” to taste and like their wines because of terroir and grape specificity. Do international varieties have an advantage in Central Greece? Perhaps they do, in blends supporting traditional varietals.
I was most impressed by the ladies playing a prominent role in the winery/winemaking processes. The feminine approach nowadays equals finesse, originality, natural proximity. Qualities the gastronomic world is looking for. Talking to Athina Tsoli and understanding how she works, I was totally blown away. She’s not only making breathtakingly pure wines without concession, she’s also managing the whole process ànd the work force. Women sommeliers, wine makers, wine consultants,… the challenges and opportunities lie everywhere.
Most of the wineries I visited, have a strong family link; only few of them don’t use the family name as a commercial brand. Syros Winery, Gaia, Thivaiki Gi, Vioma, that’s about it. This, for me, reflects part of the Greek identity: strong family ties are generational. How many winemakers did we meet, reviving grandparents’ vineyards, even after studying anything but viticulture? Plenty! We noticed as well, that nostalgia plays a particular role: most of the young winemakers regret not to celebrate wine anymore, although this was tradition a generation ago, but they’re not really taking efforts in reviving this.
Renaissance of (great-) grandparents’ vineyards, but with modern standards. Frankly I never heard of aquaflex barrels, but I saw them for the first time in Greece. Technologically, Greece is totally geared up, however it should stay vigilant. Don’t over-extract, don’t go to the extreme on the yeasts or cold maceration. Please keep it nicely surprising, typical, a product with a story we can tell to the customers on the Atlantic coast. And take revenge on history; you did provide the world with grape juice when France ran out of it – claim your role.
But in the meantime: do experiment. Do so with the ageing potential of your sweet wines, and with retsina. Please don’t denounce your retsina. It’s as unique as the Spanish sherry, it’s as refreshing before, during, after a good meal.
I came to the point where I’m lecturing Greek winemakers how to proceed. Being just a Belgian wine writer, I might as well be your most loyal defender. You made it from housewine to urban wine. The world is ready for you.En dit is het artikel zoals het in december 2014 in Oinohoos verscheen: